The International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame entertains and informs music buffs with one of the genre's only existing video libraries, along with 16 life-size oil paintings and scores of rock relics. Tour guide Henry Harrison schools guests on rockabilly music's greatest entertainers, revealing quirky facts and long-division problems that lend insight into the lives of luminaries such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and others. Listen as pompadoured performers tell tales of making music history through the hall of fame's video library, or view vibrant portraits of legends such as Sam Phillips and Shelby Singleton, the only owners of historic Sun Records. Peruse obscure artifacts from concerts and stage costumes, or model next year's yard display after the museum's Christmas-themed replica of Graceland. In addition to its interior exhibits, the Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame boasts vibrant exterior murals depicting Perkins and his original band, Sir Paul McCartney, and unruly mobs of teenagers trying to request the stars' e-mail addresses.
Dedicated to the legendary train engineer, Casey Jones Village features shops, attractions, and a museum rife with artifacts and anecdotes about Jackson's railroad history. Three authentic railcars are displayed prominently as mainstays from a different era, and children are encouraged to climb up on the engine and ring the train bell. A short film detailing the life of Casey Jones plays in the museum's theater, and a children's area entreats kids with wooden train sets so they can imagine they're piloting the first locomotive to shoot missiles at Saturn. After viewing the museum's offerings, guests can engage in other village attractions, such as mini golf, woodcarving demonstrations, and traditional treats at the antique-laden Brooke Shaw's Old Country Store. Before leaving, visitors can nosh on old-fashioned milk shakes and ice-cream sodas at the 1890s-inspired Ice Cream Parlor and Fudge Shoppe, voted one of the best 50 ice-cream parlors in the country by USA Today.
The interactive exhibits and programs compiled by the Pink Palace Family of Museums reinforce a mission that has stayed constant for 80 years: to "inspire people to learn how history, science, technology, and nature shape the Mid-South." Attached to Clarence Saunders' mansion built in the 1920s, the museum's permanent exhibits take an eclectic approach to chronicling the past, revealing everything from ancient fossils to contemporary southern history. Inside, visitors can chart the history of Memphis from the early Spanish explorers through the Civil War or walk through a replica of Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly—the country’s first self-service grocery store, and even see a shrunken head. Global adventures are chronicled on a four-story screen at the CTI-IMAX theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium explores the cosmos from the comfort of a 130-seat theater.
Traveling to east Memphis, one can discern the natural side of the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Lichterman Nature Center encompasses 65 acres of lush gardens filled with native wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. The center combines self-guided nature walks with plant sales and educational activities to expose visitors to the natural world.
The perfect frame can make a work of art leap off of a wall. For the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, the overall layout frames a 2,000-piece museum with 17 acres of lush English gardens. Tulip-lined walkways, scenic vistas, and the occasional sculpture surround visitors on tours of the Tennessee woodlands, where oaks and hickories climb towards the sky where all the good sunlight is. In total, more than 120 identified species of trees live and breathe within the gardens' level IV arboretum.
Even more sights await visitors behind the museum’s corinthian columns and brick façade. Eight to ten rotating exhibitions a year hang alongside a permanent collection that touches on paper works, sculptures, and paintings by French and American impressionists—from Claude Monet to Mary Cassatt. Beyond these ever-present attractions, the museum also hosts live performances, educational programs, and other special events.
The Stax Museum is one of the only soul-music museums in the world. It originally sprouted from an old movie theater into recording studios, offices, and engineering rooms and also birthed Stax Records, a soul-music label that influenced music internationally. Explore this artifact-packed temple of tunes to discover over 2,000 soulful objet d'art and exhibits. The museum celebrates the songs of archetypal artists like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and soul much more. As you stroll through the cabinet of wonders, music playing throughout the museum encourages the practice of extemporaneous dance moves on the Soul Train dance floor. Walls of records, film screenings, memorabilia, and countless items of musical intrigue are scattered throughout. Bask in the ambience of Isaac Hayes's peacock-blue 1972 fur-lined super-fly Cadillac Eldorado with a television, refrigerator, gold trim, and electromagnetic women attractor.
Metal Museum celebrates the centuries-long tradition of metalwork with exhibits, restoration, and classes. Its exhibitions include in-depth looks at contemporary knife making, kinetic sculpture that imitates the mechanics of the solar system, and solo collections by prominent artists. The museum even gives folks a glimpse into the process by showcasing professional blacksmiths at work. Visitors who are inspired by the fine and intricate lines in a metal sculpture can take a class on metalworking and hone their skills in the on-site foundry. The museum also regularly honors working artists and trains young people to work with diverse materials including hollowware, jewelry, and enameling. Every year, a three-day fundraiser gives folks the chance to have professional artists repair their metal items and see demonstrations by artists from around the country.